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The Agreement of the Ash'aris on a Single Creed and a Note on the Meaning of the Words of Imam Abi al-Muzaffar al-Sam'ani
Author : Dr. Jadallah Bassam
Date Added : 10-08-2023

The Agreement of the Ash'aris on a Single Creed and a Note on the Meaning of the Words of Imam Abi al-Muzaffar al-Sam'ani

 

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions:

 

Many people as well as some researchers and writers who are not well-versed in the Sharia sciences and the history of its scholars and schools of thought, and who do not comprehend the connection between rational evidence and textual proofs from the Quran and the Sunnah, have fallen into a dangerous confusion and significant ambiguity. Their misconception is when they claim that those who are not Ahl al-Hadith (People of Hadith) among the scholars of the Sharia are in opposition to the Ahl al-Hadith. The problem becomes more serious when these proponents of confusion go so far as to accuse the jurists and theologians of opposing the Ahl al-Hadith, as if they are a group not belonging to the Sharia. The also accuse them of having failed to recognize, from the knowledge derived from the Book of Allah, the Exalted, and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, that which guides them in jurisprudence, creed, and other areas.

 

We have described this confusion as dangerous due to a matter that is rarely noticed by those who hold this misconception, follow them and are influenced by them. It is that within accusing scholars of theology among the Ash'aris and the Mu'tazilites as well as scholars of jurisprudence from the four well-known schools of thought, of opposing the Quran and Sunnah, there lies a serious misjudgment about the history of Islam and its scholars. What a tremendous misconception it is! This perception has persisted in the minds of its proponents, leading them to create further misguided notions that fall among the category of falsehoods and illusions.

 

Among these misconceptions is the alteration of the understanding of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah to the extent that it is no longer realized except by a small group of people who are few in number and insufficient to bear the weight of this great title with all its encompassed knowledge, scholarly breadth, practical strength, historical depth, steadfast methodologies, principles, and unity.

 

Another misconception is the severing of the bond between the present-day generation and the predecessors of the Ummah, including the scholars among the Companions, the followers (Tabi'un), and those who followed them. This misconception also involves the false claim that theologians and jurists follow foreign philosophies that are disconnected from the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah.

 

Moreover, there is the incorrect attribution of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, including the Ash'aris and the Mu'tazilites, to groups of innovation and misguidance, according to the belief of those who hold this misconception. This has reached such an extent that the perception of these individuals–and how unfortunate their situation has become – portrays them as either branding the theologians of Ahl al-Sunnah as disbelievers or categorizing them as innovators.

 

Among these are numerous matters that vary in their severity, ranging to the point of negating both rational and textual (Quran and Sunnah) Islamic sciences, and asserting their lack of legitimacy or utility. We have encountered individuals who reject the science of theology (Ilm al-Kalam), the science of jurisprudential principles (Usul al-Fiqh), and the science of logic (Ilm al-Mantiq), claiming their prohibition. They assert absolute prohibition in this regard and refuse to consider their viewpoint as merely a perspective or an opinion.

 

This misconception does not stop there; rather, it reaches an extreme where it leads to shedding blood and considering killing permissible. It also involves unlawfully appropriating people's wealth and violating their honor under false pretenses. This is done under the pretext that these scholars, along with those who share their views (and they constitute the majority of the Ummah), are innovators, misguiders, or even disbelievers. We seek refuge in Allah from such delusions.

 

Among the points that can be clarified in this matter is that the scholars of the Ash'aris and the Maturdis, who are theologians of Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jama`ah, are in agreement with the majority of the Ummah's scholars, including jurists, hadith scholars, interpreters of the Quran, and scholars specialized in verifying issues. These scholars have been devoted to explaining Hadith and interpreting the Quran.

A clear example of this is that you will find some of the prominent researchers among the Ash'aris, for instance, excelling in various fields of knowledge, and their scholarly eminence is universally acknowledged. Still, they were not in opposition to Hadith; rather, they were counted among the people of Hadith who delved deeply into it. Take, for example, the Hafiz and Hadith scholar Ibn Furak, who was one of the leading authorities among the Ash'aris. Likewise, consider Hafiz al-Bayhaqi, Hafiz Ibn 'Asakir al-Dimashqi, the Imam and Sheikh of Sunnah al-Baghawi, Imam Muhi al-Din al-Nawawi, and the Imam of the Believers in Hadith, Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, and many others. Their prominence is evident to those who seek, and specifying their exact number is practically impossible due to their abundance upon thorough investigation.

 

Moreover, among the indications that these scholars are genuine representatives of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah is that they are united in a single creed, despite the differences in their geographical locations and periods. This unity stems from their genuine adherence to the Book of Allah, the Exalted, and the Sunnah of His Prophet, peace be upon him.

 

This is what many scholars have affirmed. Imam Hafiz Taj al-Din al-Subki, in his book {Mu'ayyid al-Ni'am wa Mubid al-Niqam (Page 75)}, stated: "And these Hanafis, Shafi'is, Malikis, and virtuous Hanbalis – praise be to Allah – are united in creed. They all adhere to the opinion of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah. They attribute their beliefs to Allah the Exalted through the path of the Sheikh of the Sunnah, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, may Allah have mercy upon him. None deviate from it except the ignorant among the Hanafis and Shafi'is, who followed the Mu'tazilites, and the ignorant among the Hanbalis, who followed the anthropomorphists. Allah cleared the Malikis from this, as we have not come across a Maliki except that they were Ash'ari in creed. In summary, the creed of al-Ash'ari is what Abu Ja'far al-Tahawi encompassed in his creed, which scholars of different schools of thought accepted and approved." (End of quote).

 

Likewise, we find a prominent Hanbali scholar affirming the same matter, stating that the theologians of Ash'aris and Maturdis are in agreement with the people of Hadith. This scholar, al-Saffarini, said in {Lu'amaat al-Anwaar al-Bahiyyah (P.1/V.73)}: "Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah are divided into three groups: the Atharis, led by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him; the Ash'aris, led by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, may Allah have mercy upon him; and the Maturdis, led by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi. As for the deviant sects, they are numerous." (End of Quote).

 

It's important to note that many people label anyone involved in narrating Hadith as "Ahl al-Hadith" (People of Hadith), even if their beliefs contradict the teachings of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, which is not permissible, since throughout the history of Islamic sects, there have been those who claimed to be part of Ahl al-Hadith in order to disguise their deviant beliefs. In reality, they belong to sects that deviate from the path of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, such as anthropomorphists or those who liken Allah to His creation. True scholars of Hadith who adhere to the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah are those who are in agreement with the authentic Ash'aris and Maturdis or are aligned with them in creed. All of these individuals collectively represent the majority of the Islamic Ummah.

 

Many of those who hold this misconception have been deceived by statements made by some scholars mentioning the people of hadith (Ahl al-Hadith) and describing them as Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama`aah. Their misunderstanding led them to believe that, according to these scholars, the term "People of hadith" refers exclusively to those who adhere to Wahhabism and its contemporary followers, or those who follow Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. One of the texts that has been misunderstood in this context is what is attributed to Imam Abu al-Muzaffar al-Sam'ani, may Allah be pleased with him, in his book {Al-Hujjah fi Bayan al-Mahajjah, Vol.2:P.224} (The Proof in Clarifying the Proof). In this text, he says: "Among the indications that the people of hadith are upon the truth is that if you were to examine all their compiled books-from the earliest to the latest, whether ancient or recent, despite the differences in their locations, times, and the distances between them in various regions-you would find them united in explaining the creed in a consistent and uniform manner. They follow a path that they do not deviate from. Their statements on this matter are one, and their transmissions are one. You do not find among them differences or discrepancies, even if they are few. In fact, if you were to gather all that has been transmitted on their tongues and what they inherited from their predecessors, you would find it as if it came from one heart and flowed from one tongue. It appears as if it originated from a single source. Is there a clearer evidence of the truth than this? Allah, the Exalted, says {What means}: "Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other Than God, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy…." Then Abu al-Muzaffar continues: "But when you look at the people of desires and innovations, you find them scattered and differing, or divided into sects and groups. You can hardly find two of them following the same creed. Some of them engage in innovation against others, and they even go so far as to declare others as disbelievers……. Have you not heard that the Mu'tazilites from among the people of Baghdad and Basrah declare each other as disbelievers. Also, the followers of Abu Ali Al-Jibba`ei declare his own son, Hashim, as disbeliever….."

 

This lengthy text does not mention the Ash'aris and does not refer to them. It specifically alludes to the Mu'tazilites and those whose opinions became confused and whose thoughts deviated, leading to an increase in their disagreements and internal conflicts. The one who holds misconceptions, however, misinterprets the words of Imam Abu al-Muzaffar al-Sam'ani, the author of the renowned book {Al-Qawa'id fi al-Usul,} as being directed at the Ash'aris. They impose their misconception onto al-Sam'ani and lead their readers into a series of endless misconceptions, despite the fact that al-Sam'ani is widely recognized and known to be Hanafi in jurisprudence. Later, he transitioned to the Shafi'i school and became a prominent figure within it. He excelled in various fields of knowledge and was not known to oppose the Ash'ari school in matters of theology and foundational beliefs. In fact, it is known that he is in agreement with them in these matters. How could he oppose them when they represent the essence of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah and are among the most skilled in establishing and arguing for creedal beliefs, and in refuting misleading doubts.

 

In conclusion, the most important point we aimed to convey through this discussion is to emphasize that many people often slip into misunderstanding the words of scholars. They misinterpret their statements in ways that would not occur to knowledgeable and discerning students of knowledge. They tend to focus on the wording itself without grasping the underlying meanings. Consequently, they delve into further misconceptions, believing that the Ash'aris declare each other to be disbelievers, based on a flawed understanding of texts like these. May Allah guide us to understanding and lead us to the correct path. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds.

 

 

 

 

 

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